March 23, 2015 – Law proposed to protect spouses from higher taxes

Dennis Ferrier, WSVM TV

MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) –

Lawmakers are working to change a law that leaves widows without the same protection as children of landowners who die.

The legislation was proposed after a property assessor had to bill a landowner’s widow at a higher rate because the landowner listed on the deed had died.

The owner of this Murfreesboro home was forced to pay the commercial property tax rate after her husband's death. The land would have been grandfathered as residential had it been inherited by the children instead of widow.

The owner of this Murfreesboro home was forced to pay the commercial property tax rate after her husband’s death. The land would have been grandfathered as residential had it been inherited by the children instead of widow.

Mrs. Smith lives in the family farmhouse, even though the surrounding farm is long gone.

The once rural part of Murfreesboro is now zoned commercial.  It didn’t affect the Smiths, who were grandfathered in.

However, when Mr. Smith died, the property tax on the 2,400-square-foot home on five acres went from $2,000 to $10,000.

“She had to cash out an IRA to pay,” said Rutherford County property assessor Rob Mitchell.  “Inherently, it’s the wrong thing to do.”

Mitchell said what’s worse, if the property had been passed down to the children, they would have been grandfathered.  A widow doesn’t get the same rights as the children.

“It probably harkens back to a time when the husband owned everything,” said Mitchell.

Today, the family dynamics have changed.

Mitchell contacted state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and now there is a bill to give widows the same grandfathered property rights as the heirs’ children.

“My mother just passed away,” said Ketron.  “If I would have faced this, I would have been really mad.  That’s why I am doing this to protect spouses.”

The new law would be especially important in fast-growing, formally rural counties like Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties.

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